Three major things happened to Dave Metz in 1971.
He graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor’s degree in history and government.
He married his wife, Cheryl, over Labor Day weekend.
And he accepted a teaching position at West Jefferson High School.
Now, 46 years, three kids, six grandkids and thousands of students later, Metz is retiring from the district.
Metz and his new bride had just moved into a new apartment in Toronto, Ohio — where they both went to school and met — when he got word that there was an opening at West Jefferson High.
After figuring out where the village was (Metz had admittedly never heard of it before) he reached out to the principal to try to land an interview.
John Baldwin was acting principal at the time told Metz he’d mail him an application.
Rather than wait for the postman, Metz told Baldwin he would make the drive and fill out the form in person if he would give him an interview while he was in town.
Baldwin consented and Metz drove in for a Tuesday interview — more than 165 miles. He was offered the job that Friday and began his career just three days later.
Just a few months later Metz and Cheryl moved out of their new Toronto apartment and to the west side of Columbus and, a year later, to West Jefferson.
They may have lost their security deposit after breaking their lease, but they found a village that they would call home for the next 45 years.
Climbing the ladder
Over the next four-and-a-half decades, Metz would work his way through the building into different positions.
From government teacher to head football coach to athletic director, he held several positions, but says he “always knew” he wanted to be principal.
That day came in 2001, when superintendent Bill Mullett was tasked with finding a principal that would change the culture in the building.
“Quite frankly, at the time our high school was having some problems with discipline and behavior. When I witnessed Dave interact with kids and the staff, I could see he had a lot of leadership ability and was somebody that kids followed and listened to,” Mullett said.
Metz had just retired from the district and signed a contract with the state department when Mullett offered him the position. Metz didn’t need much convincing and, just as he quickly abandoned the Toronto apartment, Metz called off the new position and without skipping a beat became principal of West Jefferson High School in 2001.
Nowadays, Metz says he is proud of the building’s atmosphere and, while he won’t take all the credit, does admit that he worked hard to get things how they are now.
“You want to create a culture in your building where the staff and students want to be there,” he said.
“If you look at the high school now it’s really well run. We don’t have any issues with discipline. People forget that (16) years ago it wasn’t that way and Dave really turned it around,” Mullett said.
The more things change
“The thing about Dave is everybody knows he cares about the kids … he’s seen kids and their kids and their grandkids. He’s had generations now,” said Mullett.
Metz has officially seen three generations go through the halls of his school.
He taught his latest secretary in 1972. A few years later he taught her children and after that, their children.
A student he had in his first class is now his daughter Leigh Anne’s father-in-law. His three children were Roughriders and now four of his grandchildren are, too.
The position has evolved over the years. New state testing requirements, the method in which teachers are evaluated and the monumental role social media now plays in the life of students all present new challenges.
“Over 46 years, you see a lot of changes but teenagers are always teenagers. They like to push the envelope. To see these kids change from freshman to young adults about to go out into the world … it’s very gratifying,” Metz said.
One last graduation
“This one is going to be emotional,” Metz said about the upcoming graduation ceremony, the last one he will attend as district employee.
“When you’ve been doing something as long as I have and been in the same building the whole time you have to love it,” he said.
Retirement begins Aug. 1. Metz looks forward to spending more time with his grandchildren, golfing and staying active in the community he joined 46 years ago.
“Dave is kind of a legend. He really is,” said Mullett.
So if you see a man driving around town with the license plate “DM 1971,” in honor of a life-changing year, be sure to shake his hand. That’s Dave Metz, a West Jefferson luminary and lifelong Roughrider.
Reach Erin Thompson at 740-837-4502.